Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Jonesin' 4:10 (Derek) 


LAT 4:00 (Derek) 


NYT 3:02 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:09 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 349), “String Beans!”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 2/6 (No. 349)

Another easy theme this week, distinguished by the fine way it’s been executed. Taking a cue from the title, the circled letters in each of the four themers present a string of letters—strung out across the row—which spell out varieties of beans. What’s so special about the theme’s execution? For starters, each themer is a grid-spanner; and then there’s the range of content they draw on. This latter quality is something I take as a hallmark of Liz’s work and something I always look forward to when solving. It’s one of the things that makes “easy” puzzles attractive to experienced solvers as well as to newbies.

  • 17A. [La-Z-Boy product line, in general] HOME FURNISHINGS. Generally of the comfy sort. Well-stuffed at times—but not stuffy. Mung beans. These guys, and sometimes what we call “bean sprouts.”
  • 27A [Rap sheet datum] PRIOR CONVICTION. Strong fill that. “I LIKE!” Pinto beans. I like them, too!
  • 46A. [1981 R&B hit by Lakeside (it was a real trip!)] “FANTASTIC VOYAGE. New to me, as I think of FANTASTIC VOYAGE as this 1966 film, which now sounds like “The Cold War Meets Downsizing“… (Btw, Liz wasn’t kidding when she described the tune as “a real trip.” Take a look at the official video.) Fava beans. Cue up Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.
  • 62A. [Figure on a $1,000 bill] GROVER CLEVELAND. If you find yourself in possession of one of these bills (not minted since the 1930s), it should fetch you quite a bit more than its face value. Green beans. At last!

Other fill (and clues) that fall into the “I LIKE!” column would have to include HAD KITTENS (and not HAD A COW, for a change) for [Was extremely upset]; LOSES STEAM [Runs out of energy]; FLORAL, and not TRYSTS or DINNER in response to [Like some Valentine’s Day arrangements?]; ETHNIC, that [Word with food or group]; B-MOVIE [Second-rate film], so not, to judge by its critical reception, Fantastic Voyage; MOB HIT and not JUNIOR for [Whack job on “The Sopranos”]; VENICE and AT BEST. That’s a lotta good longer and mid-range fill, and by any stretch, none of it at all BANAL.

How did you do with ETI [Life in a UFO (anagram of 25-Across)]? At first blush, this was new to me, but then… when I understood that we were looking at “ET” as in “E.T., phone home,” and “I” as in IQ or AI, the light dawned. If the clever anagram tie-in to TIE didn’t help, [“BE OF good cheer!”]. This is why we have Wikipedia. Now maybe celebrate the “aha” with a LIME-garnished gimlet, or perhaps some PILAF and wine from the RIOJA region. [“NEED I say more?”] I don’t think so.

So on that culinary high, I leave you for today. Have a great week, keep solving and pop on in next week!

[Like some Valentine’s Day arrangements?]

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Autocorrection” — Laura’s write-up

WSJ - 2.6.18 - Donaldson - Solution

WSJ – 2.6.18 – Donaldson – Solution

Terms relating to automobiles each have “corrections” — i.e. they are parsed as two words and clued goofily; hilarity ensues.

  • [17a: Fight over coffee at the diner?]: MUD FLAP
  • [19a: Lovers of big galoots?]: LUG NUTS
  • [27a: Tripod?]: CAM SHAFT
  • [47a: Baby carrot?]: DIP STICK
  • [56a: Shot from an admirer?]: FAN BELT
  • [58a: Passenger limits at major airports?]: HUB CAPS

Nice set; can’t think of any more to add — maybe POWER TRAIN [Tough workout?]. One quibble, [34d: BTW equivalent]: FWIW — I get a wee bit confused with grids whereby the themers are the same length as a bunch of fill entries. But I managed.

Fill ‘er up:

  • [31a: Act cruelly toward]: ILL TREAT. I was parsing this as I’LL TREAT — like something you would say as the bill was SETTLED UP [21d: Finished a poker night, say].
  • [5d: Spare tire makeup]: FLAB. The spare tire referenced here is not in your trunk, but around your waist — and it is also known as a muffin top.
  • [35a: “Downton Abbey” extra, maybe]: Yeah, mayyybe. The VALETs on Downton Abbey were pretty important to various major story arcs. One was arrested for murder; another had a black market scam going on during the First World War.
  • [12d: Biblical queen]: ESTHER. We celebrate Queen Esther (who, with her cousin Mordechai, triumphed over the evil vizier Haman) on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which starts on the 14th day of that crossword-friendly month, ADAR (this year February 28). Does anyone else remember a Saturday Night Live sketch from the 80s, where a reporter goes to a St. Patrick’s Day party, but it turns out it’s a Purim party? The google is suggesting it was Mary Gross, in an episode hosted by NYC’s then-mayor, Ed Koch.
  • [4d: John of “Animal House”]: BELUSHI.

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 6 18, no 0206

Same basic theme as Monday’s LA Times puzzle, which I solved about 5 hours ago. This is two too many “phrases with the same initials” themes for one day! (To be clear: I’d rather see zero … but I know these will continue to pop up from time to time.)

45d. [Tricky … or a tricky description of 18-, 29-, 36-, 48- and 59-Across] clues DEVIOUS, and the five themers have D.V. initials: DEATH VALLEY, DODGE VIPER, DEEP VOICE, DARTH VADER, and DEMO VERSION. Solid entries, relatively lively phrases.

Elsewhere, we debit the puzzle’s account for having SAVED UP crossing USE UP, I HOPE SO plus I’LL BITE , and IN ERROR with IN HD. These are all fine alone, but I don’t love seeing them in the same grid. Overall grid liveliness doesn’t buy my forgiveness for all these dupes.

Seven more things:

  • 16a. [Kind of lily], CALLA. “Calla lily” is a kind of flower, but it’s not a member of the lily family so I don’t care for the clue. Works as a fill-in-the-blank, doesn’t work as a [Kind of __] clue.
  • 27a. [Visibly blushing], REDDISH. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use REDDISH to describe a blushing face. Beet-red, sure.
  • 51a. [Poll worker’s request], VOTER ID. Only in the states that have passed bogus laws aimed at lowering certain groups of voters’ turnout.
  • 26d. [___ Wilcox, daughter in E. M. Forster’s “Howards End”], EVIE. Didn’t know this one. Never did see the movie, much less read the novel.
  • 46d. [Words and phrases that sound approximately alike, like “ice scream” and “I scream”], ORONYMS. It is good to have a word for this, but this is a reeeaaalllly uncommon word. I mean, I dig things like this, and I don’t recall ever seeing the term before. And it’s in a Tuesday puzzle??
  • 44d. [Sign on a real or virtual pet], ADOPT ME. Feels contrived.
  • 31d. [Road worker], PAVER. We call those people … road workers. Road construction crew members. Not pavers. Pavers are those paving stones you can use to tile together a nice driveway or patio.

We’ll also ding this Tuesday puzzle for plunking OTOE, ESS, and that unfamiliar EVIE in the grid. Three stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Running Free” – Derek’s write-up

I am blogging this on my phone! As I write, my five-year-old is on my computer watching YouTube videos, and I don’t feel like chasing down my laptop! I probably will have O anyway, since I will have to add the grid image I just accidentally deleted! Matt has a freestyle puzzle this week with just 64 words. I will comment on the few entries in her that were new to me, but overall this was a fun solve, and not too hard either. I am again jealous of this kind of talent. A solid 4.5 today.

A few mentions:

  • 20A [Oprah’s longtime partner Graham] STEDMAN – First husband maybe in the White House? Oprah says she isn’t running, but Trump said that too!
  • 28A [Reason for news to interrupt regular programming] SPECIAL BULLETIN – It better be special to interrupt The Voice!
  • 54A [Lovingly, in music] AMOROSO – Why do I see OMAROSA when I see this?
  • 1D [Early baseball Hall-of-Famer Edd] ROUSH – Roush Racing in NASCAR, with drivers Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., may be more well known than an obscure baseball player. Roush had previously had Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth as drivers.
  • 10D [“__ Kalikimaka” (Bing Crosby holiday song)] MELE – If you say so!
  • 13D [Jazz trumpeter Ziggy] ELMAN – Another obscurity, unless you’re a big fan of jazz!
  • 31D [Caption seen early in an alphabet book, maybe] C IS FOR CAT – Excellent!
  • 46D [Armour’s Spam rival] TREET – Never heard of it. Is this a west coast thing??

Until next week!

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I am constantly amazed at C.C.s grasp of English, since, as I understand it, English is not her native tongue. Some people just have a knack for grasping other languages, but perhaps not to the point of producing puzzles in that language! I have seen French crossword puzzles, and it seems daunting to me the level that you would have to know French to produce and enjoyable word game. Not only that, but C.C. seems to use, maybe even more than most, casual phrases in her puzzles. I will highlight several in the comments at the end, but I just had to say that right off the bat!

This puzzle has some circles, and another LAT trademark revealer as the last theme entry:

  • 17A [Cold dish topped with hard-boiled egg] CHEF’S SALAD – Do you say “chef salad” too?
  • 25A [Longtime Susan Lucci soap role] ERICA KANE
  • 38A [It clicks on the dance floor] TAP SHOE
  • 50A [Appear intermittently] COME AND GO
  • 61A [It may be a boundary betweeen neighboring countries … or what each set of circles depicts?] BORDER LAKE

Nice idea, although not all of these lakes are actually on a border, unless lake Como in Italy borders one of its states, and it looks like it is entirely in the state of Lombardy. Lake Chad is in the southwest corner of Chad near Cameroon, Lake Erie is between the US and Canada, and Lake Tahoe is between Nevada and California. But we are talking wordplay here, so all is good, and this is only Tuesday. A solid 4.4 stars for this one.

Those aforementioned comments:

  • 10A [Apple computer with a Magic Keyboard] IMAC – I am still preferring my Mac to my PC, but it seems everything business-related where I work necessitates a PC. Phooey.
  • 60A [Bread for a gyro] PITA – I am growing to like eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and there is a lot of pita bread eaten in those restaurants. Yummy!
  • 2D [Bit of gratitude from an award recipient] “I’M HONORED” – This is what I was talking about.
  • 3D [Driver’s invitation] NEED A RIDE? – This is another example of those colloquial phrases …
  • 10D [“The pressure was too much for me”] I CHOKED! – … and this may be the best one of them all!
  • 12D [Hunter Quatermain of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”] ALLAN – His name is spelled wrong! ;-)
  • 35D [Police artist’s composite pic maker] IDENTIKIT – This actually got three NYT hits (four counting the acrostic) at xwordinfo.com. That surpised me. This is mainly software, but according to TV shows I thought all PDs had a sketch artist?!
  • 53D [Causes of illnesses] GERMS – Do you have the flu? It seems it is bad this year. I had a shot!

It’s still snowy here!

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15 Responses to Tuesday, February 6, 2018

  1. Martin says:

    “Kind of” is a signal that means “word that can precede.” You know I’m not fond of “sea anemone” clues because they rely on the solver knowing a cluing convention (the absence of which is what supposedly distinguishes American from British crosswords).

    That said, it is a convention so I reluctantly accept the CALLA clue as well formed.

    • Martin says:

      PS. Many “kind of” clues don’t set off our bad-clue radar because they’re so obviously not meant to be taken as class-clues-member statements. Consider the recent “Kind of chance” (FAT). A “fat” is not a type of chance; “fat chance” is a phrase. Because actual class/member-of-that-class relationships can be “kinds of,” we may forget the meaning of the signal is not quite that. I would argue that even the recent “Kind of equinox” (AUTUMNAL) cannot be taken literally. An “autumnal” is not a thing, but “autumnal equinox” is a phrase. We overlook that the clue seems to call for a noun, but usually clues an adjective. When we try to interpret the entry as a noun (the thing calla seemingly being in the lily, not arum, family) we’re usually off-track.

      As I’ve said, not my favorite clue form. AHI the “Sushi fish” is the only thing worse.

  2. David L says:

    The clue for AXIOM is incorrect. In mathematics, an axiom is a proposition that’s generally taken to be true, without proof; in that sense it’s an assumption that is meant to be self-evident. Euclid’s fifth axiom was the proposition that parallel lines never meet, which is not true in geometries with curvature.

    The statement in the clue is provably true, in a straightforward way, so it doesn’t qualify as an axiom.

    • Dr. Fancypants says:

      I don’t believe this is correct. The transitive property of inequalities is part of the formal definition of the operator, which means that it is indeed an axiom.

      • David L says:

        Hmmm, I would say if it’s true by definition then it’s not an axiom.

        • Dr. Fancypants says:

          Basically, anything that’s assumed true in mathematics is an axiom, even though mathematicians are wildly inconsistent about terminology on this point.

          Your example is exactly analogous to this one: just like you can have perfectly good geometries without the parallel postulate, you can have perfectly a perfectly good operator that obeys the other properties of inequalities but fails transitivity.

  3. Lise says:

    I’m craving bean dishes now. Nom nom nom

  4. Gareth says:

    A lot more interesting fill than I’ve seen in earlier puzzles by Mr. Haight! ADOPTME!

    Thanks to Laura and team who filled in while I was on (too short) hot springs holiday…

  5. Lise says:

    Re: Jonesin’: I liked this puzzle very much – good freestyle with excellent fill overall. The two long acrosses were ones I hadn’t seen in a puzzle, and I’m always glad to wave at MOLIÈRE. Brings back HS memories.

    Did the clue for PANDA (3d) refer to the musician? I was totally fooled, and wrote in “koala” at first.

    • Martin says:

      I think the clue is just obsolete. Until fairly recently, pandas were thought to be related to raccoons and not in the bear family. DNA studies have shown that the the lesser (red) panda is not closely related to the giant panda. The red panda is now in its own family and the giant panda is in the bear family. The clue was correct before DNA analysis corrected our understanding of the taxonomic placement of the two species.

      • Lise says:

        That’s essentially the content of the post I originally wrote (that pandas are bears and red pandas are in the raccoon family) and then I realized, when I was searching UCSB Science Line and Wikipedia to verify my facts, that there was a musician by that name and it would be embarrassing to present panda facts when the constructor was referring to the musician.

        Either way, I liked the puzzle. Hope the constructor does more themelesses – this one was great.

  6. Zulema says:

    Amy, I made the exact comment to myself about PAVER and also about VOTER ID. We are in sync today.

  7. Billie says:

    Is it my imagination, or are the early-week LA Times puzzles WAY harder than they used to be?

  8. Pat says:

    mele kalikimaka is how one says Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. Fun song to sing!

Comments are closed.